Imagine Health

Coping with Financial Stress at Christmas

Christmas can be a source of stress for many of us, for lots of different reasons. Increasing demands on our finances can be a big stress inducer. It can seem as though the moment the Halloween decorations have been taken down, we find ourselves surrounded by advertisements and messages pressuring us to start spending – on presents for friends and family, on seasonal food and drink, on social activities and Christmas parties and on ‘essential’ products as we ready ourselves for the festive season. Even for people with plenty of disposable income, this time of year presents a strong pressure to spend beyond our means. This is something that can inevitably lead to feelings of stress. Here are some of the best ways to cope with these feelings and ease the financial stress.

Set a Realistic Budget

Set a budget that’s within your means – and stick to it! Planning is central to this task so take some time to sit down and list all of the extra expenses you think you’re going to have in the run-up to Christmas. This might include gifts, decorations, food and an allowance for extra social activities. Once you have a list, decide which items you want to prioritise and give each item a spending limit. Really think about what’s on your list. Visualise each item and decide if it’s something that you really need to purchase. Could you re-purpose something you already own instead? Or make it yourself? Use a pen and paper, a spreadsheet or an app – whatever works best for you. It’s also helpful to keep a copy of your budget on your phone or in your bag. You can then remind yourself of your limits when you find yourself in a shop and tempted to overspend.

Organise a Secret Santa

If you have a particularly large family or group of friends, you might find yourself with a long list of presents to purchase. A good way to shorten this list is to organise for everybody to have a Secret Santa. Before Christmas, try to discuss this with your family or friends. If everyone is in agreement, they put their name into a hat and select another person. That person’s present is the only one they will then have to purchase. It’s really important that you also set a budget for Secret Santa presents.

Acknowledge your Stress

At times, the build-up to Christmas can feel very overwhelming. Financial stress adds to this but can be dealt with in the same way as other stressors we encounter throughout the year. Make some time for yourself and do something that you find makes you feel calm. If you find yourself amongst the shops and feeling pressure to spend more than you have, take a moment to appreciate the festive lights and decorations. Christmas can also be a time when our routines slip so make an effort to maintain balance in your diet and some exercise in your day. This will really help to keep your general stress levels at bay.

Written by Tess O’Leary